9 Chain Restaurants That Use The Highest-Quality Seafood

lobster, shrimp, crab, clams on table
lobster, shrimp, crab, clams on table - Dny59/Getty Images

Craving a bite of fresh, flavorful seafood? Chances are, you probably don't think chain restaurants are the best option available. Seafood is at its absolute finest when it's as fresh as possible, and frankly, this isn't a virtue most chains prize. Some, however, do. The best consistently serve high quality seafood, even if the location in question is far from the shoreline, and we're here to celebrate them.

We assembled this list of high quality seafood chains through research and reviews; check the end of this article for more information on our methodology. Many of them offer thorough breakdowns of their seafood sourcing on their website. Some opt to use sustainable fishing practices. A few change their menu every season, week, and even day, to reflect the absolute best the ocean has to offer at any given time. Every single one of them offers delectable seafood. Get your lobster bib and tartar sauce ready, because we're checking out the nine chain restaurants that use the highest-quality seafood.

Read more: 12 Underrated Types Of Fish You Should Try At Least Once

1. Weathervane Seafood Restaurants

Weathervane Seafood lobster sign
Weathervane Seafood lobster sign - EWY Media/Shutterstock

Weathervane Seafood Restaurants has opened its doors in five locations throughout New Hampshire and Maine, where some of the freshest seafood is readily available. The company takes advantage of that easy access, which places it high on our list of chain restaurants serving up the highest quality seafood. Once a small take-out stand that began in 1969, it is now known for its locally sourced seafood, a menu with various fresh options, and full transparency regarding sourcing.

Throughout New England, the company has fostered lasting relationships with the local fishing community. Each and every day, the company works with its connections up and down the coast to stock kitchens with the day's catch. Often, the food served at these restaurants began the day in the water. Perhaps most impressively, Weathervane Seafood hauls in a whopping 275,000 to 300,000 pounds of live lobsters each year from various locations throughout southern and central Maine. The chain also has a robust understanding of how to make the most of its ultra-fresh catch; excellent seasoning turns these goodies into truly delicious dishes.

2. Seamore's

Seamore's outdoor counter
Seamore's outdoor counter - Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

Splashed across Seamore's website are the words "sustainable seafood." Dig a little deeper, and you'll find even more evidence of the chain's committment to integrity and freshness. Its Fresh Off the Dock menu makes this especially clear: It often includes oysters of the day, with their origin point clearly presented. This approach continues throughout the menu, which boasts such options as haddock from New Bedford, red snapper caught in the Gulf, and rainbow trout sourced from Maryland.

As the demand for fresh seafood rises, the supply has dwindled. For example, the world's obsession with sushi has led to a 97 percent drop in historic levels of bluefin tuna. To combat this decline in fresh fish, many restaurants turn to frozen and/or farmed seafood, which is easier to come by but not always of the highest quality. In contrast, Seamore's adheres to regulations that support sustainable fishing practices, such as sourcing species that have a growing or stable stock. This is ethical, and leads to a diverse menu full of unique dishes like red curry mussels and squid ink pasta alongside classic options like Baja fish tacos.

3. McCormick & Schmick's

McCormick & Schmick's exterior
McCormick & Schmick's exterior - bettercraftct / Facebook

McCormick & Schmick's makes the list due to its oysters, which are harvested from private beds, and its efforts toward sustainable seafood practices. Said beds, located in Virginia's Hog Island in the Chesapeake Bay and Eureka, California, truly yield some spectacular oysters. At any one of the chains' many locations, they taste deliciously fresh. This is seriously impressive, as some of those locations are located pretty darn far from the ocean.

Oysters aren't the only thing McCormick & Schmick's has to offer. To ensure quality, the restaurant sources its ahi tuna via the longline fishing method, which is known to be an effective, sustainable practice. Another menu favorite is the Open Blue Cobia, which is wild-caught and offers firm texture and mild flavor. The entire menu boasts this kind of fresh, ethically-caught seafood -- no matter what you order, it's bound to be good. The chain also has a cutting-edge mixology program in addition to stellar seafood.

4. Cousins Maine Lobster

lobster by Cousins Maine Lobster truck
lobster by Cousins Maine Lobster truck - bricktreebrewing / Facebook

Cousins Maine Lobster is a Shark Tank success story. The Maine-born founders were nostalgic for fresh lobster rolls and other classic coastal bites while away in California. To combat this craving, they found a way to successfully bring high quality lobster to far-off destinations. The chain has so completely perfected the practice of keeping seafood fresh that it can even ship fresh Maine lobster right to your doorstep.

Cousins Maine Lobster actively encourages customers to learn more about the origins of the lobster it serves. An online map, complete with latitude and longitude coordinates, displays the many ports and fishing areas from which its lobster hails. The menu is small but mighty, serving two forms of classic lobster rolls, Maine and Connecticut-style. The Connecticut roll is served warm with butter, while the Maine roll is chilled and dressed with mayo and a slice of lemon.

5. Luke's Lobster

Luke's Lobster shack exterior
Luke's Lobster shack exterior - Station51TruckCompany / Facebook

Luke's Lobster serves fresh-caught Maine lobster, employs local fishermen, and has a state-of-the-art processing facility in Saco, Maine with B Corp status. This mission-driven approach can be traced back to founder Luke Holden, a ​​third-generation Maine lobsterman. Rising temperatures in the Gulf of Maine are a threat to lobstermen's way of life, as well as the species who call it home. Thus, Luke's Lobsters has thrown itself into being as sustainable as possible. Perhaps most impressively, Luke's Lobster has conducted a third party carbon footprint assessment that exhaustively documented the emissions involved in every part of its business. It has taken concrete action towards addressing these findings, and has more planned for the future.

This is all incredibly admirable. It also results in some very tasty seafood. Luke's offerings taste fresh, delicious, and utterly authentic. The lobster is sweet and tender -- it basically tastes like a sunny day on the Maine coast. It's no wonder, then, that Luke's Lobsters can be found in Georgetown, Boston, Newport, and many other places across the U.S., as well as internationally in Japan and Singapore. Everyone wants seafood that's this good and this sustainable.

6. Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen exterior
Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen exterior - paul.puga.56 / Facebook

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen can be found in eight different states, near and far from the coast. It boasts some of the highest quality seafood around, no matter where the restaurant in question happens to be situated. The chain has worked especially hard to cut delivery times to ensure the freshest products. One way that Pappadeaux achieves this is by operating its own fleet of delivery trucks. This ensures a certain level of control over the process and improves distribution overall.

In addition to this, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen offers a wide variety of seafood caught from all different parts of the country. To ensure diverse menus that customers can feel good about, the company trusts experienced fishermen who know what they're doing. Notably, the chain's website details every type of seafood it offers, from the Gulf Coast redfish, which hails from the bays that surround the Gulf, to the blue point oysters of New England.

7. Red Lobster

Red Lobster restaurant exterior
Red Lobster restaurant exterior - Anne Czichos/Getty Images

Red Lobster is probably one of the most popular seafood restaurants in the world. There are nearly 700 locations in the U.S., Canada, and beyond. This huge number might make you wonder about the quality of the chain's offerings. But in fact, Red Lobster has been setting the standard for excellent seafood since opening its doors back in 1968. From those humble beginnings, the company claims, Red Lobster has always been able to trace its seafood back to a known, trusted, and reliable source. This hasn't changed, even as the company has become a major player in the restaurant scene.

In fact, Red Lobster was a founding member of Global Seafood Assurances, a non-governmental organization that works to make the world of seafood more sustainable. This means Red Lobster actually helped create the guidelines that define best fishing practices in the modern day. It shows in its food. Classic items, such as grilled lobster, shrimp, salmon, wild-caught flounder, and clam strips are so good, they have guests returning time and time again. Even the side dishes, such as the chain's celebrated cheddar bay biscuits and creamy tartar sauce, are so loved that copycat recipes are an internet mainstay.

8. Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill restaurant sign
Bonefish Grill restaurant sign - Eric Glenn/Shutterstock

Bonefish Grill has made freshness its signature style. With a menu that revolves around seasonal catches, the company serves excellent seafood from around the world, carefully seasoned and prepared to perfection. Like many restaurants on this list, Bonefish Grill was born from a passion for fresh seafood. This chain began back in 2000 in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the fishing is pretty much always good. ​​Tim Curci and Chris Parker, experienced fishermen passionate about a good catch, wanted to share fresh, seasonal dishes with other seafood lovers. This turned out to be a successful approach, and so a single establishment expanded into the sweeping brand we see today.

Notably, Bonefish Grill is not as detailed about where its seafood comes from as other entries on this list. However, rave reviews make it obvious that it's doing something right. Customers routinely praise the quality and taste of its offerings, especially the bang bang shrimp. This dish began as a specialty menu item, but was so loved that it's become a permanent fixture.

9. Legal Sea Foods

Legal Sea Foods outdoor seating
Legal Sea Foods outdoor seating - QualityHD/Shutterstock

A company with the slogan "If it isn't fresh, it isn't Legal" is bound to make a list of high-quality seafood. Legal Sea Foods grew from a small family-owned business into a restaurant behemoth. It all began more than 70 years ago, as a small market in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Proximity to the ocean and intimate knowledge of the New England fishing industry enabled the company to serve only the freshest options. This is still the standard: Legal recently opened an "Innovation Center," which promises to keep the company's food interesting, well-prepared, and of the highest quality.

Legal Sea Foods can be found in five states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. No matter where it's operating, the chain ensures fresh catches by enforcing certain standards. It prizes cold-water catches that are hauled onboard right before docking or fished by day boat operators above all others. This cuts down the time between when the fish is caught and when it's served.

How We Determined Which Chains Have The Highest-Quality Seafood

Variety of raw seafood
Variety of raw seafood - Olesia Shadrina/Getty Images

To determine this list, we sought out restaurants with a reputation for freshness, as this is the number-one factor in seafood quality. We carefully considered each spot's sourcing, especially whether or not its seafood is wild-caught or farmed, and how traceable these offerings are. When a company was upfront about its source, it was almost always a positive sign. Other factors, such as sustainability efforts and fishing practices, were also taken into consideration. We also took a look at online reviews, which reveal particularly impressive dishes. With all this in mind, we assembled this list of stand-out seafood spots.

Read the original article on Daily Meal